What is the responsibility of the artist? Is it to make a statement on the current social standing of things, or to show how the world should and could be? Or maybe both? Wherever your stance may stand, it's clear when looking at Meg Tuey's work that art is powerful. Her portfolio immediately emits a sense of positivity about life, the body, and the world in general. Her artwork, both tattoos and paintings, exist in a world where beauty is not skin deep, it's an intrinsic part of emotional well being.
Meg was kind enough to give Tattoodo some insight into her process, inspirations, and more, in this exclusive interview.
How did you get into tattooing and was it always the job you had in mind?
Tattooing was pretty much always on my radar. My great uncle was a tattooer, as well as his son. My mom would take me to her appointments when I was little. I’d draw pictures and ask my mom’s cousin to hang them on the shop walls. I didn’t know what was going on exactly. I just knew that it was a way to make art your job and I loved it. I'm sure I have an elementary school worksheet somewhere that says “tattoo artist” after “what do you want to be when you grow up?”.
I lost sight of that dream a bit throughout my teen years, but stumbled into it regardless just after graduating high school. College sounded ludicrous at the time, so instead I was washing dishes while I figured out what to do next. There was a local artist I admired that was doing work on a close friend. My friend told me their shop was looking for an apprentice and I might as well give it a go. I took my high school art portfolio in and that was that. It got a bit complicated from there, but ultimately I’ve found myself tattooing full time.
How would you describe your style? What are your favorite pieces to tattoo?
My style has been in a steady state of change over the past year. At this point, I might describe it as silly, sexy, and a little psychedelic at times. I’m starting to explore more ornamental designs that can be easily drawn straight onto the skin, but still enjoy some of the more representational stuff. I suppose my favorite pieces are generally ones where I get to lay down really heavy bold lines and embellish with dainty patterns, with a fair amount of negative space.
A lot of your work is surreal, humorous, and beautifully human. What does the world look like to you, and how does your worldview affect your artwork?
The world is one big trip!! I try to maintain a sense of levity when I look at it all big picture. I like to feel small in my human form and maybe even somewhat insignificant in the broad scheme. I find comfort there, and it helps me keep things light-hearted and playful. Psychedelics have played a huge role in the sense of humor I have towards life, and I try to funnel the perspective they've given me into my work. Whether it be honing in on certain patterns, or drawing subject matter that has caught my attention during trips, it’s all really just in the name of fun.
Your work shows women and female sexuality in a really gorgeous, empowering way. What would you say is your philosophy behind illustrating the female form? What do you hope your viewers will think or feel after viewing your paintings or illustrations or getting your tattoos?
At first, it was just the hand motions that happen when drawing the female form that got me. There’s so much room to play with exaggerating certain curves and folds. Now I suppose it’s progressed into a mission to put more of this divine feminine energy out into a world so grossly overpowered by masculinity. I think it comes out how it does because the female form is my own experience and it resonates with me. I’m working now on exploring how to get that same feel across without necessarily using a female body to represent it. Not all things feminine come with vaginas and boobs. Between the actual content of my tattoos, and the experience I try to provide while giving them, I’d hope my clients catch some sense of the integral aspects of ourselves (creativity, empathy, sensuality, etc.) that I feel femininity is responsible for.
You're an avid Tom Robbins reader! (I put him on my reading list, thank you!) What other authors, artists, or filmmakers inspire you?
Ahh yes! Tom Robbins! What a guy! I couldn’t recommend another author more! As far as visual arts go, my biggest inspiration as of late has really been my partner Louis Bicycle. He was a guest at Valentine’s Tattoo in Seattle while I was working there. I was pretty moved by his whole process when we met. No google collaging or tracing, lots of free hand drawing straight to the skin. He was putting so much positive imagery out there that was a refreshing contrast to all the guns and knives and sad kid type imagery I was seeing in tattooing. He really does his own thing, and it gave me the confidence to stop looking at what was most popular and instead focus on what was most genuine and ultimately what was most fun.
What do you do when you're not tattooing? Where is your favorite place on the planet?
I spread myself a bit thin across hobbies when I’m not tattooing. I got into circus arts several years back, and love hula hooping and fire spinning! Occasionally I make it out to festivals for that type of stuff. I play a little bit of guitar and piano, do a lot of yoga. I go through waves of heavy reading. Recently I’ve started painting a bit. It was never something I did much in the past, but its been a nice way to explore my interest in color without having to incorporate it into tattoos. Favorite place on the planet? I’ll have to get back to you on that. Still a lot of exploring left to do before I can make a fair assessment.
Any plans, guest spots, collabs, projects, etc. that you want to share?
I have a hard time planning life more than a moth in advance. As of now it looks like I’ll be taking a little break from tattoos to go hang with Louis in Missouri while we focus on some family matters. I’ll probably take that opportunity to revamp my flash book and smash out some more painting. So stay tuned for that!